John Austin Henry AUSTIN-SMITH

Male 1920 - 2003  (83 years)


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  • Name John Austin Henry AUSTIN-SMITH  [1
    Born 21 Apr 1920  Dannevirke, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 11 Oct 2003  Masterton, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Person ID I4  David Blyth Family
    Last Modified 12 Jul 2019 

    Father William Alfred SMITH,   b. 6 Jan 1890, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Jun 1949, Dannevirke, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Mary SMITH,   b. 1893, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Mar 1961, Dannevirke, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 68 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 19 Jul 1914  Hastings, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Family ID F28  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Carroll Dorothy AUSTIN,   b. 9 Apr 1922, New Plymouth, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 Dec 2010, Masterton, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 88 years) 
    Married Wellington, New Zealand Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Susan Mary AUSTIN-SMITH
     2. Judy Blyth AUSTIN-SMITH
     3. John AUSTIN-SMITH
    Last Modified 12 Jul 2019 
    Family ID F1  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • Weekly Feature - 1 November 2003
      A remarkable story finally shared with family
      The death of John Austin-Smith, of Masterton, has brought to life the p a st of a humble but quite extraordinary man. JOSEPH WALLACE spoke with h i s family and discovered the exceptional story of a wartime hero. A sto r y filled with humour, intrigue, action and history.
      DURING World War II, in September 1943, the Allied Navy captured the is l and of Cos in the Aegean Sea. Not long after this success, pilot John A u stin Henry Smith and the crew of squadron 267 delivered important back - up equipment and supplies to the battle-weary navy.
      The squadron loaded their DC3s and left the Ramat David airport in Isra e l, heading for the small island just off the southwest coast of Turkey . T he four unarmed supply planes slipped undetected through Turkey’s ne ut ral south coast before Austin and his squadron landed successfully at C o s airstrip. The four planes spread out over the aerodrome and unloaded t h e naval provisions. Austin finished and returned to his cabin to prepa r e for the departing flight. He settled into the cockpit and attempted t o s tart the motors. They refused to turn. The only other option was to m a nually crank the motors from outside the aircraft. He returned to the t a rmac and began cranking. That’s when he heard five Luftwaffe ME109 fig h ters.
      The German fighters began a strafing run over the airstrip showering th e i sland with enemy fire. Austin-Smith ran for cover, diving behind a s ta ck of unidentified drums, soon discovering they were containers of fu e l.
      He escaped the petrol explosion, but the attack left three planes utter l y annihilated. Two were aflame, the other was riddled with bullets. Se v eral men, who were most likely known to Austin, were killed. His crew a n d the surviving crew of the destroyed planes picked their friends bodi e s from the tarmac and retreated to the only plane intact.
      Austin quickly looked over his aircraft, checking for damage. He discov e red the plane was hit. The left wing was shot through, resulting in th e d amage of a foot-wide sheet of its structure. The German fighters cou ld h ave returned at any time and Austin knew it was not safe to linger. T h e lives of the remaining crews depended on the swift departure of the s u rviving plane.
      He acted fast. Leaving the tarmac, Austin climbed on to the wing and ri p ped the shot piece away and discarded it. The aircraft was loaded and e n gines cranked. Austin piloted his wounded DC3 away from the damaged ai r strip and away from the carcasses of the other three planes. Once Aust i n had flown out of immediate danger, he returned to the cabin to check h i s passengers. They were fine, playing cards and using their fallen com r ades as seats to make the journey more comfortable. Austin later repli e d to this thought: “Such is the way of warfare.”
      John Austin-Smith was known in Masterton for setting up Austins Pharmac y , which was situated in a building on a corner of Queen and Perry stre e ts, now occupied by Sounds Music.
      To locals he was a nice guy who was a keen golfer known as Austin. Aust i n’s obituary stated - “NZ402474 RNZAF. 90 Squadron, 267 Squadron. Spec i al OPS, ME Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia 1942, DFC 1943.” An extrao r dinary history to be briefly mapped out in a small column of the paper .
      Inquiries led to a 30-page book.
      Apparently Austin never mentioned the war. Until, aged 82, he was convi n ced by his family to tell his experience and put it on paper. What eve n tuated was titled Memories of an Airman. J.A.H. Austin-Smith. In it wa s r ecorded the career of a wartime hero as he told it. A straightforwar d a nd simple account of Austin-Smith’s recollection of his time in Worl d W ar II.
      Austin grew up in Dannevirke. His family were poor and financially stre t ched through the Depression. His parents struggled to buy books and un i forms for him to go to college. Money was in short supply and jobs sca r ce. Subsequently, when World War II broke out, it was an exciting pros p ect for many young men, including a young Austin aged 19.
      He applied for the air force and managed to join by telling a few white l i es. Austin said he almost missed out on the air force altogether becau s e his urine test failed. He immediately called upon his healthier brot h er to help out and sent a second sample. His brother passed this test a n d Austin was in turn accepted in July 1940.
      Over the next eight months he trained throughout New Zealand before he a n d his friends were shipped away to Canada aboard SS Awatea. Austin des c ribed the Awatea journey as “the life of luxury” where he would enjoy “ f ive or six-course meals”. He liked it so much he said he thought: “Wow , i f this is war, wiz oh, I’m all for it”. Over the next few months Aus ti n trained in Canada before he once again departed, this time for Engl a nd. In England he was prepared as a pilot of the RAF.
      Austin continued training and was assigned to the new Liberator convers i on unit, which was to be sent on a special operations job in the Middl e E ast. He spent only five hours training in the Liberators before he a nd h is crew were sent on a long flight to a new base in Fayid. At the t ime , Greece and Yugoslavia lacked communications, the Allies had no met eo rological or navigational information from the ground in these countr i es, making flights over this airspace extremely dangerous.
      Austin and his squadron’s mission was to fly the two Liberators into th e se fragile conditions dropping wireless operators, saboteurs and suppl i es to the partisans who lived in the mountains of German-occupied Gree c e and Yugoslavia. It was a difficult ask as Liberators were 50-ton sup p ly planes only lightly armed and requiring a lot of petrol for the lon g f lights from Fayid to Yugoslavia and back. They had to pack as much e qu ipment and men on each flight as possible. Consequently the planes we r e stripped of non-essential weight - 95 percent of the ammunition was d i scarded, leaving only 100 rounds in the rear gun turret. Austin said: “ W e were flying all night over enemy territory in aircraft that were lit e rally defenceless. It was a cat-and-mouse operation.”
      The Liberator crews had to be elusive and get out of enemy territory by d a ybreak or they were prime targets. But the enemy wasn’t the only dange r . One particular night Austin flew into cloud that was full of “severe i c ing” over the Aegean Sea. The Liberator’s instruments immediately froz e a nd he became disorientated in the thick cloud. He was unaware of his a l titude and unsure if he was going straight or off course. Although the a u topilot was on, Austin said his instinct was to take the stick and alt e r its level. But this action could be deadly. Instead, Austin refused t h e itch to grab the controls and stood up from his seat to feel the sit u ation. Everything felt normal, so he waited it out while de-icing heat e rs kicked in. It remained this way for some minutes for what must have b e en an eternity. Eventually the instruments came back after an intensel y -nervous wait for Austin in his blind, drifting aircraft.
      Despite numerous dangers including the weather, anti-aircraft ground fi r e and enemy fighters, Austin wrote: “The thing that caused us the most c o ncern was a bloody star! Venus!”. It was often mistaken for an enemy p l ane. Austin said he knew of some gunners shooting off a few precaution a ry rounds at the planet, just in case.
      Eventually, after numerous trips, wireless communication enabled the Li b erators to receive weather forecasts and news of the success of their d r ops. The flights were known to be some of the most arduous flights und e r extremely difficult conditions. Austin finished these operations wit h 4 46 hours of flying. He flew 19 trips to Yugoslavia and 13 drops into G r eece.
      In recognition for the flights into Yugoslavia Austin was awarded the O r der of the Crown of Yugoslavia on October 20, 1942. This was followed w i th one of the highest honours awarded to pilots, the Distinguished Fly i ng Cross.
      Austin and his crew were taken off transport duty in October 1943. The o d ds must have been in his favour as he was still alive after this exten s ive period - of the 56 men he trained with during the early stage of t h e war in Canada, only 15 returned home. Perhaps a little luck was on h i s side. “Fate played strange tricks in those weird days,” he said.
      Austin was assigned to instructing other pilots how to fly large transp o rt planes. During the course of one morning Austin finished up instruc t ing another pilot in a Liberator. He finished the lesson and landed fo r b reakfast. His good friend, Squadron Leader Rolph-Smith, took over th e j ob and took the Liberator up for another lesson. During the plane’s f i rst circuit it struck a Hurricane that was coming into land, it sliced o f f the Liberator’s tail. “All were killed instantly.” Austin returned t o f ind he was promoted to squadron leader.
      Despite the war and all the experiences that came with it, Austin’s Mem o ries are filled with amusing moments. One is when his good friend thro u ghout the war, Jacko Madill, sent Christmas correspondence to his fath e r expressing that he was in need of money. His father replied by sendi n g him a Christmas cake that hid the only reliable currency at the time - g o ld sovereigns.
      Unfortunately, Jacko’s aunts were also keen to help their nephew’s war e f fort. In which case several cakes arrived for Jacko courtesy of his do t ing aunties. The mass of cakes camouflaged the true identity of the “r i chest cake”. Austin was called on and together they hacked up several C h ristmas cakes until they struck gold.
      The war ended in August 1944 and Austin was posted home. He wrote of on e o f his last experiences - it happened as he was getting ready to retu rn t o New Zealand. “ I’d finished for the day, was packing up to go hom e a nd watching the Liberators coming in to land, at night. Thought that b l oke’s low! He was, the next second , CRASH and flames. So into my litt l e ute, tore up the road about a quarter mile, ran across a paddock and h e lped pull one guy away from the burning wreck. He’d hit something, had n o r oof to his mouth and of course no teeth. And boy, was he hot. The am bu lance arrived, popped him in and I sat on his tummy all the way to ho s pital trying to dig his teeth out of his throat every time he choked. O f ten wonder what happened to him. Poor devil.”
      The next day Austin left for home. He returned via Morocco to Britain, o n t o the Queen Mary, which shipped him to New York where he remained fo r s ix weeks before training across America to San Francisco, then on a b o at to Noumea before reaching New Zealand.
      John Austin-Smith left his home town at the age of 19. He travelled the w o rld and experienced the highs and lows of war, and the comradeships th a t were made and lost. He said the memories he made lived in him foreve r : “They are events I will never forget and experiences and friendships o n ly war can provide”. He returned home a humble, decorated hero. As a w a rtime pilot he amassed a total of 1715 flying hours. John Austin-Smith p a ssed away last month aged 83.

      -- MERGED NOTE ------------

      Weekly Feature - 1 November 2003
      A remarkable story finally shared with family
      The death of John Austin-Smith, of Masterton, has brought to life thepa s t of a humble but quite extraordinary man. JOSEPH WALLACE spoke with h i s family and discovered the exceptional story of a wartime hero.A stor y f illed with humour, intrigue, action and history.
      DURING World War II, in September 1943, the Allied Navy captured the is l and of Cos in the Aegean Sea. Not long after this success, pilot John A u stin Henry Smith and the crew of squadron 267 delivered importantback- u p equipment and supplies to the battle-weary navy.
      The squadron loaded their DC3s and left the Ramat David airport in Isra e l, heading for the small island just off the southwest coast of Turkey . T he four unarmed supply planes slipped undetected through Turkey’s ne ut ral south coast before Austin and his squadron landed successfully at C o s airstrip. The four planes spread out over the aerodrome andunloaded t h e naval provisions. Austin finished and returned to his cabin to prepa r e for the departing flight. He settled into the cockpit and attempted t o s tart the motors. They refused to turn. The only otheroption was to m an ually crank the motors from outside the aircraft. Hereturned to the t a rmac and began cranking. That’s when he heard five Luftwaffe ME109 fig h ters.
      The German fighters began a strafing run over the airstrip showering th e i sland with enemy fire. Austin-Smith ran for cover, diving behinda st ac k of unidentified drums, soon discovering they were containers of fue l .
      He escaped the petrol explosion, but the attack left three planes utter l y annihilated. Two were aflame, the other was riddled with bullets.Sev e ral men, who were most likely known to Austin, were killed. His crew a n d the surviving crew of the destroyed planes picked their friends bodi e s from the tarmac and retreated to the only plane intact.
      Austin quickly looked over his aircraft, checking for damage. He discov e red the plane was hit. The left wing was shot through, resulting inthe d a mage of a foot-wide sheet of its structure. The German fighterscould h a ve returned at any time and Austin knew it was not safe to linger. The l i ves of the remaining crews depended on the swift departureof the survi v ing plane.
      He acted fast. Leaving the tarmac, Austin climbed on to the wing and ri p ped the shot piece away and discarded it. The aircraft was loaded and e n gines cranked. Austin piloted his wounded DC3 away from the damaged ai r strip and away from the carcasses of the other three planes. Once Aust i n had flown out of immediate danger, he returned to the cabin to check h i s passengers. They were fine, playing cards and using theirfallen comr a des as seats to make the journey more comfortable. Austinlater replied t o t his thought: “Such is the way of warfare.”
      John Austin-Smith was known in Masterton for setting up Austins Pharmac y , which was situated in a building on a corner of Queen and Perry stre e ts, now occupied by Sounds Music.
      To locals he was a nice guy who was a keen golfer known as Austin. Aust i n’s obituary stated - “NZ402474 RNZAF. 90 Squadron, 267 Squadron. Spec i al OPS, ME Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia 1942, DFC 1943.” An extrao r dinary history to be briefly mapped out in a small column of the paper .
      Inquiries led to a 30-page book.
      Apparently Austin never mentioned the war. Until, aged 82, he was convi n ced by his family to tell his experience and put it on paper. What eve n tuated was titled Memories of an Airman. J.A.H. Austin-Smith. In it wa s r ecorded the career of a wartime hero as he told it. A straightforwar d a nd simple account of Austin-Smith’s recollection of his time in Worl d W ar II.
      Austin grew up in Dannevirke. His family were poor and financially stre t ched through the Depression. His parents struggled to buy books anduni f orms for him to go to college. Money was in short supply and jobsscarc e . Subsequently, when World War II broke out, it was an excitingprospec t f or many young men, including a young Austin aged 19.
      He applied for the air force and managed to join by telling a few white l i es. Austin said he almost missed out on the air force altogether becau s e his urine test failed. He immediately called upon his healthier brot h er to help out and sent a second sample. His brother passed this test a n d Austin was in turn accepted in July 1940.
      Over the next eight months he trained throughout New Zealand before he a n d his friends were shipped away to Canada aboard SS Awatea. Austin des c ribed the Awatea journey as “the life of luxury” where he wouldenjoy “ f ive or six-course meals”. He liked it so much he said he thought: “Wow , i f this is war, wiz oh, I’m all for it”. Over the next few months Aus ti n trained in Canada before he once again departed, this time for Engl a nd. In England he was prepared as a pilot of the RAF.
      Austin continued training and was assigned to the new Liberator convers i on unit, which was to be sent on a special operations job in the Middl e E ast. He spent only five hours training in the Liberators before he a nd h is crew were sent on a long flight to a new base in Fayid. At the t ime , Greece and Yugoslavia lacked communications, the Allies had no met eo rological or navigational information from the ground in thesecountri e s, making flights over this airspace extremely dangerous.
      Austin and his squadron’s mission was to fly the two Liberators into th e se fragile conditions dropping wireless operators, saboteurs and suppl i es to the partisans who lived in the mountains of German-occupied Gree c e and Yugoslavia. It was a difficult ask as Liberators were 50-ton sup p ly planes only lightly armed and requiring a lot of petrol for the lon g f lights from Fayid to Yugoslavia and back. They had to pack as much e qu ipment and men on each flight as possible. Consequently theplanes wer e s tripped of non-essential weight - 95 percent of the ammunition was d is carded, leaving only 100 rounds in the rear gun turret. Austin said: “ W e were flying all night over enemy territory in aircraft that were lit e rally defenceless. It was a cat-and-mouse operation.”
      The Liberator crews had to be elusive and get out of enemy territory by d a ybreak or they were prime targets. But the enemy wasn’t the only dange r . One particular night Austin flew into cloud that was full of “severe i c ing” over the Aegean Sea. The Liberator’s instruments immediately froz e a nd he became disorientated in the thick cloud. He was unaware of his a l titude and unsure if he was going straight or off course.Although the a u topilot was on, Austin said his instinct was to take the stick and alt e r its level. But this action could be deadly. Instead, Austin refused t h e itch to grab the controls and stood up from his seat to feel the sit u ation. Everything felt normal, so he waited it out while de-icing heat e rs kicked in. It remained this way for some minutes for what must have b e en an eternity. Eventually the instruments came back after an intensel y -nervous wait for Austin in his blind, drifting aircraft.
      Despite numerous dangers including the weather, anti-aircraft ground fi r e and enemy fighters, Austin wrote: “The thing that caused us the most c o ncern was a bloody star! Venus!”. It was often mistaken for an enemy p l ane. Austin said he knew of some gunners shooting off a few precaution a ry rounds at the planet, just in case.
      Eventually, after numerous trips, wireless communication enabled the Li b erators to receive weather forecasts and news of the success of their d r ops. The flights were known to be some of the most arduous flights und e r extremely difficult conditions. Austin finished these operations wit h 4 46 hours of flying. He flew 19 trips to Yugoslavia and 13 drops into G r eece.
      In recognition for the flights into Yugoslavia Austin was awarded theOr d er of the Crown of Yugoslavia on October 20, 1942. This was followed w i th one of the highest honours awarded to pilots, the Distinguished Fly i ng Cross.
      Austin and his crew were taken off transport duty in October 1943. The o d ds must have been in his favour as he was still alive after this exten s ive period - of the 56 men he trained with during the early stage of t h e war in Canada, only 15 returned home. Perhaps a little luck was on h i s side. “Fate played strange tricks in those weird days,” he said.
      Austin was assigned to instructing other pilots how to fly large transp o rt planes. During the course of one morning Austin finished up instruc t ing another pilot in a Liberator. He finished the lesson and landed fo r b reakfast. His good friend, Squadron Leader Rolph-Smith, took over th e j ob and took the Liberator up for another lesson. During the plane’s f i rst circuit it struck a Hurricane that was coming into land, it sliced o f f the Liberator’s tail. “All were killed instantly.” Austin returned t o f ind he was promoted to squadron leader.
      Despite the war and all the experiences that came with it, Austin’s Mem o ries are filled with amusing moments. One is when his good friend thro u ghout the war, Jacko Madill, sent Christmas correspondence to his fath e r expressing that he was in need of money. His father replied by sendi n g him a Christmas cake that hid the only reliable currency at the time - g o ld sovereigns.
      Unfortunately, Jacko’s aunts were also keen to help their nephew’s war e f fort. In which case several cakes arrived for Jacko courtesy of his do t ing aunties. The mass of cakes camouflaged the true identity of the “r i chest cake”. Austin was called on and together they hacked up several C h ristmas cakes until they struck gold.
      The war ended in August 1944 and Austin was posted home. He wrote of on e o f his last experiences - it happened as he was getting ready to retu rn t o New Zealand. “ I’d finished for the day, was packing up to gohome a n d watching the Liberators coming in to land, at night. Thoughtthat blo k e’s low! He was, the next second , CRASH and flames. So intomy little u t e, tore up the road about a quarter mile, ran across a paddock and hel p ed pull one guy away from the burning wreck. He’d hit something, had n o r oof to his mouth and of course no teeth. And boy, washe hot. The amb ul ance arrived, popped him in and I sat on his tummy all the way to hos p ital trying to dig his teeth out of his throat everytime he choked. Of t en wonder what happened to him. Poor devil.”
      The next day Austin left for home. He returned via Morocco to Britain, o n t o the Queen Mary, which shipped him to New York where he remained fo r s ix weeks before training across America to San Francisco, thenon a b oa t to Noumea before reaching New Zealand.
      John Austin-Smith left his home town at the age of 19. He travelled the w o rld and experienced the highs and lows of war, and the comradeships th a t were made and lost. He said the memories he made lived in him foreve r : “They are events I will never forget and experiences and friendships o n ly war can provide”. He returned home a humble, decorated hero. As a w a rtime pilot he amassed a total of 1715 flying hours. John Austin-Smith p a ssed away last month aged 83.
      Weekly Feature - 1 November 2003
      A remarkable story finally shared with family
      The death of John Austin-Smith, of Masterton, has brought to life the p a st of a humble but quite extraordinary man. JOSEPH WALLACE spoke with h i s family and discovered the exceptional story of a wartime hero. A sto r y filled with humour, intrigue, action and history.
      DURING World War II, in September 1943, the Allied Navy captured the is l and of Cos in the Aegean Sea. Not long after this success, pilot John A u stin Henry Smith and the crew of squadron 267 delivered important back - up equipment and supplies to the battle-weary navy.
      The squadron loaded their DC3s and left the Ramat David airport in Isra e l, heading for the small island just off the southwest coast of Turkey . T he four unarmed supply planes slipped undetected through Turkey’s ne ut ral south coast before Austin and his squadron landed successfully at C o s airstrip. The four planes spread out over the aerodrome and unloaded t h e naval provisions. Austin finished and returned to his cabin to prepa r e for the departing flight. He settled into the cockpit and attempted t o s tart the motors. They refused to turn. The only other option was to m a nually crank the motors from outside the aircraft. He returned to the t a rmac and began cranking. That’s when he heard five Luftwaffe ME109 fig h ters.
      The German fighters began a strafing run over the airstrip showering th e i sland with enemy fire. Austin-Smith ran for cover, diving behind a s ta ck of unidentified drums, soon discovering they were containers of fu e l.
      He escaped the petrol explosion, but the attack left three planes utter l y annihilated. Two were aflame, the other was riddled with bullets. Se v eral men, who were most likely known to Austin, were killed. His crew a n d the surviving crew of the destroyed planes picked their friends bodi e s from the tarmac and retreated to the only plane intact.
      Austin quickly looked over his aircraft, checking for damage. He discov e red the plane was hit. The left wing was shot through, resulting in th e d amage of a foot-wide sheet of its structure. The German fighters cou ld h ave returned at any time and Austin knew it was not safe to linger. T h e lives of the remaining crews depended on the swift departure of the s u rviving plane.
      He acted fast. Leaving the tarmac, Austin climbed on to the wing and ri p ped the shot piece away and discarded it. The aircraft was loaded and e n gines cranked. Austin piloted his wounded DC3 away from the damaged ai r strip and away from the carcasses of the other three planes. Once Aust i n had flown out of immediate danger, he returned to the cabin to check h i s passengers. They were fine, playing cards and using their fallen com r ades as seats to make the journey more comfortable. Austin later repli e d to this thought: “Such is the way of warfare.”
      John Austin-Smith was known in Masterton for setting up Austins Pharmac y , which was situated in a building on a corner of Queen and Perry stre e ts, now occupied by Sounds Music.
      To locals he was a nice guy who was a keen golfer known as Austin. Aust i n’s obituary stated - “NZ402474 RNZAF. 90 Squadron, 267 Squadron. Spec i al OPS, ME Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia 1942, DFC 1943.” An extrao r dinary history to be briefly mapped out in a small column of the paper .
      Inquiries led to a 30-page book.
      Apparently Austin never mentioned the war. Until, aged 82, he was convi n ced by his family to tell his experience and put it on paper. What eve n tuated was titled Memories of an Airman. J.A.H. Austin-Smith. In it wa s r ecorded the career of a wartime hero as he told it. A straightforwar d a nd simple account of Austin-Smith’s recollection of his time in Worl d W ar II.
      Austin grew up in Dannevirke. His family were poor and financially stre t ched through the Depression. His parents struggled to buy books and un i forms for him to go to college. Money was in short supply and jobs sca r ce. Subsequently, when World War II broke out, it was an exciting pros p ect for many young men, including a young Austin aged 19.
      He applied for the air force and managed to join by telling a few white l i es. Austin said he almost missed out on the air force altogether becau s e his urine test failed. He immediately called upon his healthier brot h er to help out and sent a second sample. His brother passed this test a n d Austin was in turn accepted in July 1940.
      Over the next eight months he trained throughout New Zealand before he a n d his friends were shipped away to Canada aboard SS Awatea. Austin des c ribed the Awatea journey as “the life of luxury” where he would enjoy “ f ive or six-course meals”. He liked it so much he said he thought: “Wow , i f this is war, wiz oh, I’m all for it”. Over the next few months Aus ti n trained in Canada before he once again departed, this time for Engl a nd. In England he was prepared as a pilot of the RAF.
      Austin continued training and was assigned to the new Liberator convers i on unit, which was to be sent on a special operations job in the Middl e E ast. He spent only five hours training in the Liberators before he a nd h is crew were sent on a long flight to a new base in Fayid. At the t ime , Greece and Yugoslavia lacked communications, the Allies had no met eo rological or navigational information from the ground in these countr i es, making flights over this airspace extremely dangerous.
      Austin and his squadron’s mission was to fly the two Liberators into th e se fragile conditions dropping wireless operators, saboteurs and suppl i es to the partisans who lived in the mountains of German-occupied Gree c e and Yugoslavia. It was a difficult ask as Liberators were 50-ton sup p ly planes only lightly armed and requiring a lot of petrol for the lon g f lights from Fayid to Yugoslavia and back. They had to pack as much e qu ipment and men on each flight as possible. Consequently the planes we r e stripped of non-essential weight - 95 percent of the ammunition was d i scarded, leaving only 100 rounds in the rear gun turret. Austin said: “ W e were flying all night over enemy territory in aircraft that were lit e rally defenceless. It was a cat-and-mouse operation.”
      The Liberator crews had to be elusive and get out of enemy territory by d a ybreak or they were prime targets. But the enemy wasn’t the only dange r . One particular night Austin flew into cloud that was full of “severe i c ing” over the Aegean Sea. The Liberator’s instruments immediately froz e a nd he became disorientated in the thick cloud. He was unaware of his a l titude and unsure if he was going straight or off course. Although the a u topilot was on, Austin said his instinct was to take the stick and alt e r its level. But this action could be deadly. Instead, Austin refused t h e itch to grab the controls and stood up from his seat to feel the sit u ation. Everything felt normal, so he waited it out while de-icing heat e rs kicked in. It remained this way for some minutes for what must have b e en an eternity. Eventually the instruments came back after an intensel y -nervous wait for Austin in his blind, drifting aircraft.
      Despite numerous dangers including the weather, anti-aircraft ground fi r e and enemy fighters, Austin wrote: “The thing that caused us the most c o ncern was a bloody star! Venus!”. It was often mistaken for an enemy p l ane. Austin said he knew of some gunners shooting off a few precaution a ry rounds at the planet, just in case.
      Eventually, after numerous trips, wireless communication enabled the Li b erators to receive weather forecasts and news of the success of their d r ops. The flights were known to be some of the most arduous flights und e r extremely difficult conditions. Austin finished these operations wit h 4 46 hours of flying. He flew 19 trips to Yugoslavia and 13 drops into G r eece.
      In recognition for the flights into Yugoslavia Austin was awarded the O r der of the Crown of Yugoslavia on October 20, 1942. This was followed w i th one of the highest honours awarded to pilots, the Distinguished Fly i ng Cross.
      Austin and his crew were taken off transport duty in October 1943. The o d ds must have been in his favour as he was still alive after this exten s ive period - of the 56 men he trained with during the early stage of t h e war in Canada, only 15 returned home. Perhaps a little luck was on h i s side. “Fate played strange tricks in those weird days,” he said.
      Austin was assigned to instructing other pilots how to fly large transp o rt planes. During the course of one morning Austin finished up instruc t ing another pilot in a Liberator. He finished the lesson and landed fo r b reakfast. His good friend, Squadron Leader Rolph-Smith, took over th e j ob and took the Liberator up for another lesson. During the plane’s f i rst circuit it struck a Hurricane that was coming into land, it sliced o f f the Liberator’s tail. “All were killed instantly.” Austin returned t o f ind he was promoted to squadron leader.
      Despite the war and all the experiences that came with it, Austin’s Mem o ries are filled with amusing moments. One is when his good friend thro u ghout the war, Jacko Madill, sent Christmas correspondence to his fath e r expressing that he was in need of money. His father replied by sendi n g him a Christmas cake that hid the only reliable currency at the time - g o ld sovereigns.
      Unfortunately, Jacko’s aunts were also keen to help their nephew’s war e f fort. In which case several cakes arrived for Jacko courtesy of his do t ing aunties. The mass of cakes camouflaged the true identity of the “r i chest cake”. Austin was called on and together they hacked up several C h ristmas cakes until they struck gold.
      The war ended in August 1944 and Austin was posted home. He wrote of on e o f his last experiences - it happened as he was getting ready to retu rn t o New Zealand. “ I’d finished for the day, was packing up to go hom e a nd watching the Liberators coming in to land, at night. Thought that b l oke’s low! He was, the next second , CRASH and flames. So into my litt l e ute, tore up the road about a quarter mile, ran across a paddock and h e lped pull one guy away from the burning wreck. He’d hit something, had n o r oof to his mouth and of course no teeth. And boy, was he hot. The am bu lance arrived, popped him in and I sat on his tummy all the way to ho s pital trying to dig his teeth out of his throat every time he choked. O f ten wonder what happened to him. Poor devil.”
      The next day Austin left for home. He returned via Morocco to Britain, o n t o the Queen Mary, which shipped him to New York where he remained fo r s ix weeks before training across America to San Francisco, then on a b o at to Noumea before reaching New Zealand.
      John Austin-Smith left his home town at the age of 19. He travelled the w o rld and experienced the highs and lows of war, and the comradeships th a t were made and lost. He said the memories he made lived in him foreve r : “They are events I will never forget and experiences and friendships o n ly war can provide”. He returned home a humble, decorated hero. As a w a rtime pilot he amassed a total of 1715 flying hours. John Austin-Smith p a ssed away last month aged 83.

      -- MERGED NOTE ------------

      Weekly Feature - 1 November 2003
      A remarkable story finally shared with family
      The death of John Austin-Smith, of Masterton, has brought to life thepa s t of a humble but quite extraordinary man. JOSEPH WALLACE spoke with h i s family and discovered the exceptional story of a wartime hero.A stor y f illed with humour, intrigue, action and history.
      DURING World War II, in September 1943, the Allied Navy captured the is l and of Cos in the Aegean Sea. Not long after this success, pilot John A u stin Henry Smith and the crew of squadron 267 delivered importantback- u p equipment and supplies to the battle-weary navy.
      The squadron loaded their DC3s and left the Ramat David airport in Isra e l, heading for the small island just off the southwest coast of Turkey . T he four unarmed supply planes slipped undetected through Turkey’s ne ut ral south coast before Austin and his squadron landed successfully at C o s airstrip. The four planes spread out over the aerodrome andunloaded t h e naval provisions. Austin finished and returned to his cabin to prepa r e for the departing flight. He settled into the cockpit and attempted t o s tart the motors. They refused to turn. The only otheroption was to m an ually crank the motors from outside the aircraft. Hereturned to the t a rmac and began cranking. That’s when he heard five Luftwaffe ME109 fig h ters.
      The German fighters began a strafing run over the airstrip showering th e i sland with enemy fire. Austin-Smith ran for cover, diving behinda st ac k of unidentified drums, soon discovering they were containers of fue l .
      He escaped the petrol explosion, but the attack left three planes utter l y annihilated. Two were aflame, the other was riddled with bullets.Sev e ral men, who were most likely known to Austin, were killed. His crew a n d the surviving crew of the destroyed planes picked their friends bodi e s from the tarmac and retreated to the only plane intact.
      Austin quickly looked over his aircraft, checking for damage. He discov e red the plane was hit. The left wing was shot through, resulting inthe d a mage of a foot-wide sheet of its structure. The German fighterscould h a ve returned at any time and Austin knew it was not safe to linger. The l i ves of the remaining crews depended on the swift departureof the survi v ing plane.
      He acted fast. Leaving the tarmac, Austin climbed on to the wing and ri p ped the shot piece away and discarded it. The aircraft was loaded and e n gines cranked. Austin piloted his wounded DC3 away from the damaged ai r strip and away from the carcasses of the other three planes. Once Aust i n had flown out of immediate danger, he returned to the cabin to check h i s passengers. They were fine, playing cards and using theirfallen comr a des as seats to make the journey more comfortable. Austinlater replied t o t his thought: “Such is the way of warfare.”
      John Austin-Smith was known in Masterton for setting up Austins Pharmac y , which was situated in a building on a corner of Queen and Perry stre e ts, now occupied by Sounds Music.
      To locals he was a nice guy who was a keen golfer known as Austin. Aust i n’s obituary stated - “NZ402474 RNZAF. 90 Squadron, 267 Squadron. Spec i al OPS, ME Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia 1942, DFC 1943.” An extrao r dinary history to be briefly mapped out in a small column of the paper .
      Inquiries led to a 30-page book.
      Apparently Austin never mentioned the war. Until, aged 82, he was convi n ced by his family to tell his experience and put it on paper. What eve n tuated was titled Memories of an Airman. J.A.H. Austin-Smith. In it wa s r ecorded the career of a wartime hero as he told it. A straightforwar d a nd simple account of Austin-Smith’s recollection of his time in Worl d W ar II.
      Austin grew up in Dannevirke. His family were poor and financially stre t ched through the Depression. His parents struggled to buy books anduni f orms for him to go to college. Money was in short supply and jobsscarc e . Subsequently, when World War II broke out, it was an excitingprospec t f or many young men, including a young Austin aged 19.
      He applied for the air force and managed to join by telling a few white l i es. Austin said he almost missed out on the air force altogether becau s e his urine test failed. He immediately called upon his healthier brot h er to help out and sent a second sample. His brother passed this test a n d Austin was in turn accepted in July 1940.
      Over the next eight months he trained throughout New Zealand before he a n d his friends were shipped away to Canada aboard SS Awatea. Austin des c ribed the Awatea journey as “the life of luxury” where he wouldenjoy “ f ive or six-course meals”. He liked it so much he said he thought: “Wow , i f this is war, wiz oh, I’m all for it”. Over the next few months Aus ti n trained in Canada before he once again departed, this time for Engl a nd. In England he was prepared as a pilot of the RAF.
      Austin continued training and was assigned to the new Liberator convers i on unit, which was to be sent on a special operations job in the Middl e E ast. He spent only five hours training in the Liberators before he a nd h is crew were sent on a long flight to a new base in Fayid. At the t ime , Greece and Yugoslavia lacked communications, the Allies had no met eo rological or navigational information from the ground in thesecountri e s, making flights over this airspace extremely dangerous.
      Austin and his squadron’s mission was to fly the two Liberators into th e se fragile conditions dropping wireless operators, saboteurs and suppl i es to the partisans who lived in the mountains of German-occupied Gree c e and Yugoslavia. It was a difficult ask as Liberators were 50-ton sup p ly planes only lightly armed and requiring a lot of petrol for the lon g f lights from Fayid to Yugoslavia and back. They had to pack as much e qu ipment and men on each flight as possible. Consequently theplanes wer e s tripped of non-essential weight - 95 percent of the ammunition was d is carded, leaving only 100 rounds in the rear gun turret. Austin said: “ W e were flying all night over enemy territory in aircraft that were lit e rally defenceless. It was a cat-and-mouse operation.”
      The Liberator crews had to be elusive and get out of enemy territory by d a ybreak or they were prime targets. But the enemy wasn’t the only dange r . One particular night Austin flew into cloud that was full of “severe i c ing” over the Aegean Sea. The Liberator’s instruments immediately froz e a nd he became disorientated in the thick cloud. He was unaware of his a l titude and unsure if he was going straight or off course.Although the a u topilot was on, Austin said his instinct was to take the stick and alt e r its level. But this action could be deadly. Instead, Austin refused t h e itch to grab the controls and stood up from his seat to feel the sit u ation. Everything felt normal, so he waited it out while de-icing heat e rs kicked in. It remained this way for some minutes for what must have b e en an eternity. Eventually the instruments came back after an intensel y -nervous wait for Austin in his blind, drifting aircraft.
      Despite numerous dangers including the weather, anti-aircraft ground fi r e and enemy fighters, Austin wrote: “The thing that caused us the most c o ncern was a bloody star! Venus!”. It was often mistaken for an enemy p l ane. Austin said he knew of some gunners shooting off a few precaution a ry rounds at the planet, just in case.
      Eventually, after numerous trips, wireless communication enabled the Li b erators to receive weather forecasts and news of the success of their d r ops. The flights were known to be some of the most arduous flights und e r extremely difficult conditions. Austin finished these operations wit h 4 46 hours of flying. He flew 19 trips to Yugoslavia and 13 drops into G r eece.
      In recognition for the flights into Yugoslavia Austin was awarded theOr d er of the Crown of Yugoslavia on October 20, 1942. This was followed w i th one of the highest honours awarded to pilots, the Distinguished Fly i ng Cross.
      Austin and his crew were taken off transport duty in October 1943. The o d ds must have been in his favour as he was still alive after this exten s ive period - of the 56 men he trained with during the early stage of t h e war in Canada, only 15 returned home. Perhaps a little luck was on h i s side. “Fate played strange tricks in those weird days,” he said.
      Austin was assigned to instructing other pilots how to fly large transp o rt planes. During the course of one morning Austin finished up instruc t ing another pilot in a Liberator. He finished the lesson and landed fo r b reakfast. His good friend, Squadron Leader Rolph-Smith, took over th e j ob and took the Liberator up for another lesson. During the plane’s f i rst circuit it struck a Hurricane that was coming into land, it sliced o f f the Liberator’s tail. “All were killed instantly.” Austin returned t o f ind he was promoted to squadron leader.
      Despite the war and all the experiences that came with it, Austin’s Mem o ries are filled with amusing moments. One is when his good friend thro u ghout the war, Jacko Madill, sent Christmas correspondence to his fath e r expressing that he was in need of money. His father replied by sendi n g him a Christmas cake that hid the only reliable currency at the time - g o ld sovereigns.
      Unfortunately, Jacko’s aunts were also keen to help their nephew’s war e f fort. In which case several cakes arrived for Jacko courtesy of his do t ing aunties. The mass of cakes camouflaged the true identity of the “r i chest cake”. Austin was called on and together they hacked up several C h ristmas cakes until they struck gold.
      The war ended in August 1944 and Austin was posted home. He wrote of on e o f his last experiences - it happened as he was getting ready to retu rn t o New Zealand. “ I’d finished for the day, was packing up to gohome a n d watching the Liberators coming in to land, at night. Thoughtthat blo k e’s low! He was, the next second , CRASH and flames. So intomy little u t e, tore up the road about a quarter mile, ran across a paddock and hel p ed pull one guy away from the burning wreck. He’d hit something, had n o r oof to his mouth and of course no teeth. And boy, washe hot. The amb ul ance arrived, popped him in and I sat on his tummy all the way to hos p ital trying to dig his teeth out of his throat everytime he choked. Of t en wonder what happened to him. Poor devil.”
      The next day Austin left for home. He returned via Morocco to Britain, o n t o the Queen Mary, which shipped him to New York where he remained fo r s ix weeks before training across America to San Francisco, thenon a b oa t to Noumea before reaching New Zealand.
      John Austin-Smith left his home town at the age of 19. He travelled the w o rld and experienced the highs and lows of war, and the comradeships th a t were made and lost. He said the memories he made lived in him foreve r : “They are events I will never forget and experiences and friendships o n ly war can provide”. He returned home a humble, decorated hero. As a w a rtime pilot he amassed a total of 1715 flying hours. John Austin-Smith p a ssed away last month aged 83.
      TEXT: _WEBTAG
      NAME WebTag
      URL http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=93427436

  • Sources 
    1. [S27] Unkn own, Descandants of Henry and Mary-Ann Smith , Hawkes Bay, New Zea land (Name: Document Compiled by unknown Ancestor;), Descandants of Henry and Mary-Ann Smith , Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (Written out in hand on sheets of papar).

    2. [S45] FIndagrave.com, Find A Grave Memorial# 93427436 John Austin Henry SMith and Dorothy Carroll.
      Birth: Apr., 1920
      Death: Oct. 11, 2003, New Zealand

      John Austin Henry AUSTIN married Carroll SMITH in 1946

      Family links:
      Spouse:
      Carroll Smith Austin-Smith (1922 - 2012)

      Inscription:
      J Austin H AUSTIN-SMITH
      DFC ORD Crown Yugoslavia
      402474 1939-45 Sqn Ldr
      108 Sqn 159 Sqn 160 Sqn
      Died 11.10.2003, Aged 83 yrs
      Carroll AUSTIN-SMITH
      Died 29.12.2010, Aged 88 yrs

      Burial:
      Riverside Cemetery
      Masterton
      Wellington, New Zealand
      Plot: Q, Row 2, Ex Servicemen
      GPS (lat/lon): -40.96218, 175.67259

      Created by: JoGregory
      Record added: Jul 11, 2012

    3. [S16] Archives NZ, Archived Military Service Records for William Alfred Smith.